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Farm and Forest

Maharashtra’s Bhikshu Sangh claims forest land in Ramdegi hills

The Buddhist group’s legal argument highlights awareness of the Forest Rights Act, an important goal for rights groups like CJP and AIUFWP

Sabrangindia 21 Jun 2022

Maharashtra’s Bhikshu SanghImage Courtesy: villagetreesllc.biz

Claiming rights under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006, a Buddhist group in the Ramdegi forests of Maharashtra rejected forest authorities’ plans to remove alleged encroachments in the area, reported the Times of India on June 21, 2022.

As per reports, State Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF-wildlife) Sunil Limaye issued instructions to remove encroachments in the Tadoba buffer. However, the Bhikshu Sangh funded by the Tapovan Buddha Vihar Trustees staked claim to the Ramdegi Hills. According to their legal representative Smita Kamble, the monks have owned the land for over 35 years i.e., since 1976. As such, the area is famous as a pilgrimage site that hosts hundreds of monks.

The Sangh applied for forest rights in the specified area in 2011 and their claim was accepted and approved by the sub-divisional level commission (SDLC), headed by the SDO. According to Section 4(5) of the FRA law, any individual or corporation occupying the property and having filed allegations cannot be evicted from the property in his possession.

Both the forest authority and the Sangh have staked a claim on the property. In an earlier memorandum to the PCCF, a Bhante Gyanjyoti requested that the buildings in the area not be destroyed, particularly the Tapovan Buddha Vihar built in 1992.

In turn, the PCCF cited the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court’s orders regarding a PIL by a Prerna Bindra. However, Kamble said the plea does not instruct for the clearance of any obstructions, nor does it acknowledge encroachment over the property. According to her, the high court has simply directed the PCCF (wildlife) to consider the petitioner's account. The high court order was issued on March 2, 2022.

This court order was in context of the removal of unauthorised structures in the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) buffer zone in Khadsangi range. The Bothli Wahangaon gram panchayat staked claim over 4,500 acres of forest land in this zone.

The assertion of forest rights by the small-town establishment highlights the empowerment within gram panchayat and gram sabha structures in protecting their natural resources.

AIUFWP’s fight for forest rights

The All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP) and Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) have been working together for years to raise awareness about the FRA law. With a goal to spark a sense of power in the gram sabha structure, CJP set about organising legal training in different parts of India like Kaimur, Sonbhadra, Chitrakoot, etc. People were informed how to file for forest community and individual claims, which authorities to approach and when and how to assert their own inherent forest rights.

In the case of the latter, CJP even succeeded in ensuring forest claims of eight villages in the district in 2021. Then in March 2022 on the occasion of Martyr’s Day the AIUFWP helped people from nine villages in the Dudhi region of Sonbhadra district file community claims under the FRA.

These initiatives were – and continue to be – taken to raise awareness of people’s forest rights and the power of the gram sabhas. The legal move taken by the Sangh indicates similar favourable moves by rural folk eager to protect the sanctity of their natural surroundings.

Related:

Dhinkia: Betel plantation destruction hits local economy
Chhattisgarh gov’t halts three Hasdeo Arand mining projects
Covid-19 and Adivasi Empowerment: CJP’s unique contribution
AIUFWP helps Dudhi villagers file Forest Land Claims under FRA
Adivasi women file land claims under FRA, CJP and AIUFWP make history

Maharashtra’s Bhikshu Sangh claims forest land in Ramdegi hills

The Buddhist group’s legal argument highlights awareness of the Forest Rights Act, an important goal for rights groups like CJP and AIUFWP

Maharashtra’s Bhikshu SanghImage Courtesy: villagetreesllc.biz

Claiming rights under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006, a Buddhist group in the Ramdegi forests of Maharashtra rejected forest authorities’ plans to remove alleged encroachments in the area, reported the Times of India on June 21, 2022.

As per reports, State Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF-wildlife) Sunil Limaye issued instructions to remove encroachments in the Tadoba buffer. However, the Bhikshu Sangh funded by the Tapovan Buddha Vihar Trustees staked claim to the Ramdegi Hills. According to their legal representative Smita Kamble, the monks have owned the land for over 35 years i.e., since 1976. As such, the area is famous as a pilgrimage site that hosts hundreds of monks.

The Sangh applied for forest rights in the specified area in 2011 and their claim was accepted and approved by the sub-divisional level commission (SDLC), headed by the SDO. According to Section 4(5) of the FRA law, any individual or corporation occupying the property and having filed allegations cannot be evicted from the property in his possession.

Both the forest authority and the Sangh have staked a claim on the property. In an earlier memorandum to the PCCF, a Bhante Gyanjyoti requested that the buildings in the area not be destroyed, particularly the Tapovan Buddha Vihar built in 1992.

In turn, the PCCF cited the Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court’s orders regarding a PIL by a Prerna Bindra. However, Kamble said the plea does not instruct for the clearance of any obstructions, nor does it acknowledge encroachment over the property. According to her, the high court has simply directed the PCCF (wildlife) to consider the petitioner's account. The high court order was issued on March 2, 2022.

This court order was in context of the removal of unauthorised structures in the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve (TATR) buffer zone in Khadsangi range. The Bothli Wahangaon gram panchayat staked claim over 4,500 acres of forest land in this zone.

The assertion of forest rights by the small-town establishment highlights the empowerment within gram panchayat and gram sabha structures in protecting their natural resources.

AIUFWP’s fight for forest rights

The All India Union of Forest Working People (AIUFWP) and Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) have been working together for years to raise awareness about the FRA law. With a goal to spark a sense of power in the gram sabha structure, CJP set about organising legal training in different parts of India like Kaimur, Sonbhadra, Chitrakoot, etc. People were informed how to file for forest community and individual claims, which authorities to approach and when and how to assert their own inherent forest rights.

In the case of the latter, CJP even succeeded in ensuring forest claims of eight villages in the district in 2021. Then in March 2022 on the occasion of Martyr’s Day the AIUFWP helped people from nine villages in the Dudhi region of Sonbhadra district file community claims under the FRA.

These initiatives were – and continue to be – taken to raise awareness of people’s forest rights and the power of the gram sabhas. The legal move taken by the Sangh indicates similar favourable moves by rural folk eager to protect the sanctity of their natural surroundings.

Related:

Dhinkia: Betel plantation destruction hits local economy
Chhattisgarh gov’t halts three Hasdeo Arand mining projects
Covid-19 and Adivasi Empowerment: CJP’s unique contribution
AIUFWP helps Dudhi villagers file Forest Land Claims under FRA
Adivasi women file land claims under FRA, CJP and AIUFWP make history

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